Piggy: Review. By Joe Muldoon.
Adapted from the 2018 short film of the same name, Piggy is the latest award-winning venture of writer-director Carlota Pereda. It’s uncomfortable, it’s morally dubious, and it’s deliciously manipulative. Many films have depicted the torment of bullying, but few have portrayed its effects so unflinchingly, not only the pain caused, but also the consequences of silence.
Sara (masterfully played by Laura Galán) is a teenage girl whose family runs a small butcher shop in a Spanish village. Cruelly ostracised by the local teenagers for her weight, Sara’s social life is next to non-existent, with her instead living an introverted life, accompanied mostly by music.
The baking Spanish summer sunshine provides the perfect backdrop for what quickly evolves into a stifling series of events, scarcely offering the audience a chance to breathe. Heartbreakingly self-conscious about her body, Sara heads to the local swimming pool and waits until it’s almost entirely vacated before she feels safe to go for a swim.
Her enjoyment is short-lived, as her bullies spot her swimming, deciding to viciously berate Sara and hold her under the water with a net. Their actions clearly not satisfying enough, the girls run off with her clothes and towel, forcing Sara to begin the long and humiliating walk home, wearing only her swimsuit.
On her way home, she witnesses her recently-bloodied bullies being dragged into a van by a mysterious bearded man. As one desperately bangs on the window begging for help, Sara wets herself in fear. In an oddly tender moment, the man silently offers her a towel, one of the only instances in which we see any genuine kindness being shown towards the tortured teen.
After eventually arriving home, we see the villagers grow increasingly concerned about the likely disappearance of their teenagers – some show immediate worry, but others brush it off as a simple matter of teenagers enjoying their summer by partying in the woods. As bodies are found and the parents break out into panic, tensions rise rapidly, pushing their way towards breaking point. As Sara’s guilt suffocates her, others around her start to notice, and we wonder if she’ll finally admit her knowledge of the current situation.
By the arrival of the film’s grisly climax, Piggy’s work is done. Our moral compasses have been sent into a state of confusion; the film dares to ask us whether Sara’s silence is justified – just as her bullies’ parents silently turned blind eyes to their children’s merciless body shaming, Sara stays silent about the girls’ whereabouts. Is being kidnapped and tied up in a slaughterhouse a proportionate punishment for bullying? Probably not – but it’s hard to not feel a warped sense of justice, that at least some level of comeuppance was long-overdue.
Pereda stated that she wrote the film to confront her own fears, because ‘being a teen can be terrifying’ – without being heavy-handed, Piggy manages to be incisively socially conscious, a stark meditation on cruelty, silence, and retribution.
By Joe Muldoon.
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